We collaboratively develop and test models for optimal cannabis policy (retail practices, marketing & taxation), based on the best available scientific evidence, with the goal of reducing harms, youth use and problem use and promoting social justice and equity. Our work includes:
Developing model local ordinances for licensing cannabis retailers, marketing, and general and special taxes on cannabis.
Carrying out research with local and national stakeholders and experts to identify best practices.
Developing legal analyses of relevant issues for licensing, constraints on marketing, and taxation.
Managing a national Listserv, and providing webinars, presentations, visits & other technical assistance tools to support communities, educate policymakers, and exchange experiences & questions.
Public Health Input
Providing public health oriented input to regulatory processes and supporting other stakeholders to do so.
Getting it Right from the Start project is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, whose generous support makes this work possible.
Our research is also generously funded by:
- Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program
- National Institutes of Drug Abuse
However, the opinions expressed in our work reflect the positions of the project and do not necessarily represent the official views of other organizations.
MD, MPH, FAAP; Principal Investigator
Dr. Lynn Silver, pediatrician, researcher and public health advocate, is Senior Advisor at the Public Health Institute and Clinical Professor at University of California San Francisco. She focuses on policies to prevent noncommunicable disease, its risk factors and inequitable impact. Silver was Assistant Health Commissioner of New York City, leading innovative policy work such as the nation’s first trans-fat ban, calorie labeling law and the National Salt Reduction Initiative and supported innovative tobacco control policies and programs. She previously worked on issues related to regulation of pharmaceuticals and of health insurance. Silver served as Health Officer for Sonoma County, California and has advanced and evaluated many policies to create a healthier food supply. She began working on cannabis policy during passage of California’s Proposition 64 in 2016, driven by recognition that many hard-earned lessons from regulation of other legal but harmful products were not being incorporated into cannabis regulation. Experience as a public health official, and consumer advocate guides the project’s understanding that a more public health and equity-oriented approach is needed to protect our youth as this new legal industry expands, and lead to the multifaceted research, technical assistance and policy advocacy approach of Getting it Right from the Start. She received her MD and MPH degrees and pediatric training from the Johns Hopkins University, was previously visiting scholar at the Karolinska Institute, and has published widely on these issues.
PhD; Research Scientist
Dr. Alisa Padon completed her doctorate in public health from the department of Health, Behavior & Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and finished a postdoctoral fellowship at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Her past research focused on youth-targeted marketing and promotions of alcohol and tobacco products, examining the intersection between the unique vulnerabilities of youth and the psychosocial and neurocognitive appeals and techniques used in marketing. She is now translating that work as a research scientist at the Public Health Institute, into the regulation of sugar sweetened beverages and legalized recreational cannabis.
Aurash Jason Soroosh
MSPH, RD; Policy Research Associate
Aurash Jason Soroosh works as a Policy Research Associate at the Public Health Institute. He is a Registered Dietitian and received a Master of Science in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Before coming to PHI, Jason was a Cannabis Product Safety Analyst at the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission where he co-authored edible cannabis product regulations for the state. He also served as a Co-Chair of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) Cannabis Committee. Originally from California, Jason is a formally trained chef who spent nearly a decade in the Cannabis Industry developing a business that grew medical cannabis and produced edible cannabis products.
MPH; Research Scientist
Bethany Simard earned a Master in Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan and has a strong background in longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional statistical methods, such as generalized linear models and interrupted time-series. Prior to working at the Public Health Institute, Bethany was a research analyst for Truth Initiative, a non-profit focused on preventing youth and young adult use of tobacco and nicotine products through attitude and norm change. In this role, she evaluated Truth’s anti-tobacco/nicotine and anti-opioid campaigns targeting youth and young adults and examined related hypotheses, trends, and policies for scientific publication. She joined “Getting it Right from the Start” as a research scientist to investigate the natural experiment of California’s unique patchwork of local cannabis laws and regulations on youth health and health disparities over time.
Health Equity Program Coordinator
Kiara Gonzalez provides communications and administrative support to the project. She received her Bachelor of Science in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. Gonzalez has experience working with non-profits and health initiative programs such as the Berkeley Student Cooperative and the Healthy Hearts Clinic at the Children’s Hospital Oakland. Her interests include public health and immigration reform. She hopes to one day aid in the healing of burn victims as a practicing physician.
Health Equity Communications Manager
Zack develops and maintains programmatic communications systems and infrastructure, coordinates with partner organizations, develops and implements communications strategies, creates promotional materials, manages all social media accounts, and establishes and fosters media relations. Zack has worked as an advocate, writer, and strategist on a diverse range of local, statewide, and national issues including environmental, social, and economic justice, consumer rights, and public health. Among his career highlights include major communication stints at the Consumer Federation of California, Center for Environmental Health, and California’s Proposition 37 campaign to label GMOs. Zack received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at San Diego in Communications, and a Master’s Degree from San Diego State University, also in Communications.
Dr. Ryan Whitacre earned a PhD in medical anthropology from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco (2018), and completed his postdoctoral training at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland (2022). His research examines the management of pleasure in societies, and traces the consequences for marginalized communities. He is currently leading a three-year research project on community engagement in cannabis policy.
MPP, MPhil, PhD; Policy Associate
Christine provides administrative support as a Program Associate. She has a background in Learning and Development and LMS administration, and previously worked with the City of San José and San José State University to develop accessible training and advancement opportunities. She also has experience with several nonprofits, supporting causes such as green building, environmental equity, and HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Christine received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Cal State Los Angeles.